How is a dental negligence Barrister (Counsel) engaged?
Interestingly during the running of a recent dental negligence claim, I had a client ask me that she wanted to speak with a Barrister regarding her claim and that I should arrange a conference with Counsel.
I was of course happy to help, but I did have to put my client straight on how Barristers are properly engaged to give advice. My client thought that I could just pick up the phone and have a three way telephone conversation with her and the Barrister at her convenience.
Now I do not intend to go into the ins and outs of how Counsel may be instructed by way of direct access (more on that here - http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/using-a-barrister/public-access/ ) but on how I instruct the Barristers that I use.
Most Barristers (called Counsel) that are instructed in my dental claims are experienced (called senior juniors - confusingly!) and the one that I instructed in this particular case was from Temple in London and is an experienced Barrister who also happens to sit as a Deputy District Judge in the London Courts.
The role of any Barrister is to present the case through advocacy- usually in the Courtroom. They make legal arguments based upon the clients instructions and present the case on behalf of the client to the Court using (hopefully) persuasive legal arguments to obtain the best result for my dental claim clients
In a nutshell, I had to explain to my client that in order to have a three way simple telephone conference call -I had to prepare a number of things:
I had to approach Counsels clerk to see if Counsel would firstly assist, Once Counsel was happy that he was not wasting his time, I then had to talk about funding his advice. Counsel in this dental claim was happy to work under a CFA (no win no fee agreement) just as I was doing with my own dental claim client.
Next I had to check Counsels availability. Counsel is constantly on the move either sitting as a DDJ or on his feet presenting cases for clients so I had to check when he was free for a teleconference and this had to be inserted in his diary by Counsels clerk.
Once a suitable date had been obtained, I had to then send Counsel the dental claim papers. This included all of the Court documents, the relevant correspondence and the clients clinical notes and records along with the experts reports. These enclosures are sent to Counsels clerk with a covering letter and a set of "Instructions". These instructions effectively brief the Barrister on what my client wanted to know. The instructions have to be bound with pink ribbon - that is the tradition.
Once Counsel had had the papers and had a chance to look through them, I then had to arrange a three way telephone conference which could be properly recorded and send Counsel instructions upon how to dial in.
So, instructing a barrister for advice on a dental claim is not quite as simple as picking up the phone and having a chat....